Taliban negotiators meet with Afghan government officials
The Taliban sent negotiators to the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday to discuss the prisoner swap and the talks appear to have made some progress. However, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the press that a “technical team” was in Kabul purely to facilitate the prisoner swap, and not for additional negotiations. The original agreement between just the US and the Taliban was to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and for the insurgents to release 1,000 pro-government captives in return. The technical team is to ensure that those released are named on the list.
Sayed Akbar Agha a former Taliban commander said: “The Taliban delegates are named Maulavi Abdul Fatah, Maulavi Ibrahim and Akhtar Mohammad, these Taliban delegates belong to the Taliban’s committee on the prisoner release,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.
The Afghan government rejected the original deal but there have been back and forth discussions about it ever since. The Ghani Afghan government was due for a release on Wednesday but canceled it at the last minute. The Afghan government has wanted to make the release in stages whereas the Taliban have wanted the swap done all at one fell swoop. The Taliban are holding off any peace talks until they get the full 5,000 prisoners released as in the original US Taliban agreement.
The 100 prisoner release could be a first positive stepThe first 100 Taliban prisoners were to be released on Thursday with 20 imprisoned Aghan troops also to be released.
While the 100 Taliban prisoners is small as a percentage of the total of 5,000 to be released it is positive step and given that the Taliban agree it is probably that many more will be released in short order. This could be crucial in getting peace talks with the Afghan government going. The Taliban and the US had already signed an agreement the end of February. US and other foreign troops are to be withdrawn in stages. Successful talks between the Taliban and Afghan government are crucial to the continued successful carrying out of the terms of the Taliban US agreement. The situation is complicated by the fact that the Afghan government faces political turmoil as Abdullah Abdullah also claims the presidency along with Ghani. Mike Pompeo tried to mediate an agreement between the two but without success.